Concluding FlatSpinMan's Il-2 '46 campaign for the Bf 109!
Having some months back posted reports for the first four missions in this entertaining and highly recommended campaign, I thought it was over-due time to complete the story! The Allied bomber offensive 1942-45 has always been a particular interest of mine and the ability of modded Il-2 '46 to support this - and other 'Western Front' campaigns - transformed my opinions of and interest in this classic sim, which, in its latest forms, is in my opinion still much the best combat flight sim for World War 2...and beyond.
FlatSpinMann's Defence of the Reich campaign is one of several which enable you to pit your virtual life against the might of the USAAF's famous 8th Air Force in its campaign of daylight 'precision bombing'. You're cast as Willi Jedermann, an experienced member of the Jagdflieger whose Bf109's aft fuselage carries the white cross, black disc marking of the Nationalist Spanish Air Force, doubtless denoting time spent with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. The campaign comes with several nicely-rendered variations of the 'skin' for the player's Messerschmitt, the one below being for the 109G-6, to which the player transitions during the missions in this report, having started with the G-2.
Earlier missions had seen our Willi transferred south from JG5 'Eismeer' in the frozen north to join I Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 1 in defence of the Deutsche Bucht or 'German Bight', as they called the area of the North Sea bounded by Schleswig-Hollstein/Denmark to the east and the north German coastline near Bremen and Hamburg, to the south. That Willi is an alter hase, an 'old hare' who has seen it all before and then some, is clear from the mission briefings, which often feature Willi's frank expressions of his views, ranging from his reservations about operating so often over the seas on convoy escort, to his opinions on the latest bright ideas from his superiors.
My fifth mission is a case in point. Willi is being sent aloft to practice air-to-air bombing of enemy bomber formations, prompted by the success achieved by real-life Luftwaffe ace Heinze Knoke (recounted in 'I Flew for the Fuhrer' and quoted in many other books). Willi is fairly scathing about the prospects for this tactic...but orders are orders! Soon, flying as Willi, I'm airborne and headed north, in rather murky weather with a 250Kg bomb slung under my Messerschmitt. I'm rather glad to be on my own. Level bombing in a bombsight-less fighter seems unlikely to go well and, methinks, the fewer of my squadron-mates who witness my efforts with this contraption, the better.
Callling up the inflight map, I checked my bearings. Our base is at Windau, which Goggle tells me is these days called Ventspils and is in Latvia, on the Baltic Sea coast. A stock Il-2 map of this area is topographically not a bad substitute for the German Bight, though.
I have been told that the target on this practice mission has been marked out on some muddy coastal land, in the form of something resembling a plan view of a formation of heavy bombers. I'm to bomb from about a thousand metres, apparently.
On arrival, I first overflew the range, just to get a good look at what they have cooked up for me. It's not too bad a job, I soon find out: a series of large white crosses in a decent representation of an American heavy bomber formation. And there's a large white circle-and-arrow marking on the ground a few hundred meters short of the 'formation'. You can't see it in the screenie below because it's hidden by the junction of those canopy farmes on the left, but it wasn't too hard for me to work out that this marked my suggested bomb release point. It seems the idiots who dreamed up this aerial bombing nonsense have at least been thorough in laying out my practice target.
What they hadn't done so well was explain how I was supposed to aim my bomb, given that on a straight run-in, both the 'formation' and the bomb release mark are hidden under my nose. I suppose they expect an officer of the Luftwaffe to be able to work out such things for himself. So that's what I did. I approached on an offset course and picked out a landmark inland to my right - to my left, there was only the sea - which was level with the aiming mark. Unfortunately landmarks were rather limited in this weather and in this neck of the woods but I picked out a reasonably distinctive point on the edge of a suitably-positioned forest. Nearing the bomb release point on this offset course, I made a sort of 'Z' curve, turning left to get the the aiming mark and the target in line and then back right, back onto the same course as before, but in line with the target somewhere under my nose. Looking to the right, when the aiming mark came level, I let go the bomb and turned right, mildly curious to see what happened next. Below you can see the bomb on its way down, about half an aircraft's length, directly ahead of my spinner.
The results were a good deal better than I expected. The bomb went off just on the leading edge of the 'formation', close enough I thought to have done some damage. Had it been for real, lacking proximity fuses, the trick would have been to get the thing to go off at the same level, the problem being a three-dimensional one.
As I came off the target, I got a bit of a surprise when I saw the shadow of a vic of aircraft flit across theground below and behind. At this point I suddenly remembered that the briefing warned me to watch out for the presence of some boys from a Jagdfliegerschule, who were on some training flights somewhere in the general area. Of course in concentrating on my bombing run I had completely forgotten about them. There were undoubtedly at a much, much higher risk of me flying into them, than bombing them.
Looking around more carefully, I soon spotted the others, off to my right. Three Messerschmitts like my own, they were, also headed south, towards my airfield.
I gave them a wide beth and watched as they dipped down directly towards the runway. For some reason they didn't land, but pulled up short of landing and climbed away. Drat! Now I was going to have to be more careful in making my own approach!
As it happened, these three were not the trainees; or if they were, they were nearing the end of their course, flying operational types. The real trainees were also in the air, flying impressed Czech-built Avia B-534s.
Having flown past my base on my right to keep my distance from the other 109s, I gradually let down to about 300 meters. I looked around again for the others and seeing nothing, turned right onto my base leg. The skies remained murky but clear of aircraft and it wasn't long before I was down. As I completed my roll-out, I heard two other aircraft advising they were going around and the tower acknowledging. So I opened up again and smartly cleared the runway, steering towards the hardstanding in front of the hangers, at the left end of the long grass strip.
I thought to myself, that wasn't too bad, unfortunately...'unfortunately' as only a complete disaster seemed likely to offer any hope of the next step in the process being cancelled. That next step, I felt sure, would be to put the training into practice, on operations.
I was right.
To be continued...!
Flying the Ju 87 over the front on the Volga - in Il-2 1946!
Why fly the Stuka in 'classic' Il-2 - over Stalingrad, to boot - when you can fly it in Il-2: Battle of Stalingrad (BoS)? If you have access to both sims, that's a good question. The new sim models the Stuka to a level of detail that is visually much superior, plus BoS portrays the city and the battlefield around it in tremendous detail. See what I mean?
Well, there are three reasons for playing this mission in the earlier sim, in my case. Firstly, I want to to make a comparison - to feature Stuka campaign mission reports from both sims, one after the other. Secondly, flying the Stuka and some Soviet fighers in the newer sim actually spurred me to do something I had only dabbled in before - start some serious Eastern Front campaigns in the older sim, for the VVS and flying the Stuka. And the third reason is this:
At the moment, AI-flown Stukas in BoS regularly crack up soon after takeoff, often leaving you on your own, after your flight-mates have fire-balled or belly-flopped onto the snow. Well, that's the result I'm getting anyway, and I'm not alone. The solution, for now, appears to be - fly an air start. So that's likely what I'll do, for the next mission report. But for his one, I'm starting with the original sim. Well, not quite the original, since what we have now is a sim that's had about thirteen years development and modding. Here, I'm using Il-2 1946 with the latest Dark Blue World mod installed. The mission itself is, I believe, from a stock Stuka campaign. This is divided into several mini-campaigns, starting early on during Operation Barbarossa and extending to the Battle of Kursk and beyond. Having created a new pilot with the surname of the most famous and successful Stuka pilot, I was pleased to find out that I could go straight to the Battle of Stalingrad. So that's what I did.
The Il-2 '46 Stuka has a comparatively lower-polygon 3d model but it's still a pleasing replica. Moreover, the sim features several Ju 87 variants, notably the early-war B version; the more angular D version most common on the Eastern Front; and the G model tankbuster with two 3.7 cm cannon. Here's the plane I'll be flying now, a Ju 87D-3. It has the correct fuselage code (A5+AH) for the campaign's unit, the 1st Staffel in I Gruppe, Stukageschwader 1 - 'A5' signifying StG1 and 'H' indicating the 1st Staffel, which is in I Gruppe. The second 'A' is my individual aircraft letter; one of IL-2's nice touches is of course that other aircraft not only also have the correct unit markings, they each have different, individual aircraft letters.
A virtual tour of operations with an historical sqaudron is one thing that you don't get in BoS for now. In Il-2 '46 you do and you can look up your unit roster, where you can keep track of your comrades and your relative success...or the lack thereof, as the case may be. I dislike flying as a wingman, preferring the tactical challenges of flight leadership. So for my pilot, I have selected the rank of Hauptman, which I hope will give me plenty of opportunity to show my mettle as a Stuka leader...or again, the lack thereof, as the case may be.
Here's the briefing for my first mission. We're kicking off in mid-September, just before 6th Army's first big attack into the city of Stalingrad itself; the snows and the first Soviet encircling attacks are still a couple of months away. In the second screenshot below, I have scrolled down the text to show how Il-2 lists your flight's composition, which BoS doesn't; though like BoS, I'm only going to find out that we've got an escort when I start the mission itself.
And here we are on the runway, six Stukas in single file, with no less that eight Bf 109s lined up behind us. With an escort like that, surely we should be quite safe from any Bolsheviks foolish enough to try conclusions with the might of the Jagdwaffe!
One way or another, I would find out, soon enough.
...to be continued!